Fake It Till You Make It

Nook & Cranny Mercantile, one of the shops I visited yesterday (click to visit webpage)

Since about 2005, Nettl and I have had one car between us and since she’s the one who works outside the home, I’m without wheels every day. Unless I have a doctor appointment or need to run some errands, I’m pretty housebound. That’s not a bad thing, though. I mean, where am I going to go? I used to walk a bit, but with knee surgery looming in the near future, that’s out.  I’m a bit of a homebody, anyway, so it really doesn’t bother me. Yesterday was different. Because Nettl’s supervisor picked her up to go to OKC on business, the car was left here, which didn’t really hit me until I went to the kitchen to get my coffee and I saw the car in the drive. The day was beautiful, warm, and sunny so why not go out?

I didn’t do much, really, but there are a couple of items I’m wanting for our new look in the living/music room (a combined space connected by a lovely Craftsman columned divider), and I decided to hit some antique and used furniture shops. We’re really tired of the cottage look and are now shifting to what I call a “well-traveled Woodstock hippy Zen” look. You know what I mean. Persian area rugs, steamer trunk coffee table, low-profile sofa, comfortable club chairs, tasteful art on the walls, tweed, leather, etc, and little things having to do with eastern philosophy. That. Soon, the lace curtains, the doilies, the hanging “grandma” plates, and the figurines will be stowed away in the garage; we’ve already picked out the new sofa and chair and will be ordering them in the next week or two. Yesterday, I located the rugs, drapes, and the trunk, and they’ll follow soon after.

Anyway, as I drove around town yesterday, the sun roof open and my favorite station playing hits from the Seventies, I felt free, alive, and grateful for the life I have. Yeah, I live with chronic illness and its unpredictable ups and downs every day, but so what? The more I focus on the world around me and feel grateful for all I have (and I’m not talking about possessions here, I’m talking about my family, my friends, and my creative projects), the less in focus illness becomes. I exercise a little Bradley Method over the pain and it all slips into the background. Soon, I’m not focusing on myself at all. I’m noticing other people. I open doors, I allow pedestrians to cross in front of me even when I have the right-of-way and, when asked by shopkeepers and clerks, “How’re you doing?” my answer is, “Actually, I’m having a great day!” Instead of the question being one about how I feel, it turns into one about my mindfulness of the day itself. The paradox is, the less I think about how I feel, the better I feel!

I admit, all this friendliness and love of life is something I’ve had to learn to enact. “Fake it till you make it” and “Be mindful of the moment” have become my mantras over the past decade, and it hasn’t been easy. The secret, though, is that the more I “faked it” and the more I turned my awareness to life around me, the easier it became. Now I’m not faking it anymore. What it took was getting damned bored with myself and my private pity party. I had to stop being negative and start realizing that it’s my body that’s in rough shape, not me. It’s like having a tire that always goes flat and not having a spare or the means to buy a new tire. I can either sit on my ass and bemoan my situation, or I can keep a full can of StopLeak in the trunk. Yes, of course the tire is going to go flat again, but I can keep refilling it. I’m not the tire, damn it, and I’m not even the car. I’m the driver. That’s how I look at my body vehicle and, when this car wears out I’ll get a new one. Meantime, I keep a supply of StopLeak on hand.

Look, I know from my own experience that sometimes it’s nearly impossible to be so positive. I have my off days, too, but at last I’m learning that I am my own self-fulfilling prophecy: how I choose to perceive myself is exactly what I manifest for myself.

“You should feast regularly on the society of joyful minds.
Every day you should associate, if only for a little while,
with joy-instilled persons—those who meditate and feel
the joy of God as a reality. Seek them out and feast with
them on this most vitalising food of joy. Feast on laughter
in the company of these really joyful people. Steadfastly
continue your laughter diet once you have begun it,
and at the end of a month or two you will see the
change—your mind will be filled with sunshine…
Cheerfulness is very important to health.
It is the best antiseptic that you can have—plus
the thought that you are all right.”
Paramahansa Yogananda

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Your Daily Accord

So how’s your head? Are you reeling? Clutching your gut? Mopping your brow? Barfing over the rail? I admit that over the past week it’s taken a small jug of Chianti, a box of Cheez-Its, a couple of Klonopins, and a whole lot of my Woodstock & Big Sur Mood station on Pandora to make it through. I’m a strong woman, but sometimes I get pushed to my outermost limits, and the past week was about as bad as I’ve ever survived—with the exception, of course, of suddenly becoming an 18 year-old widow with a two week-old infant. That was as bad as it’s ever gotten, but there have been so many chaotic episodes in my life, it’s hard to judge.

I’m not going to go into why this week has been so rough. You know why, and I’ve chosen not to spend my Sunday focusing on it. I’m not even going to name it. I need one day each week to hold a private moratorium on the chaos, and this is it. Today I’m cleaning the house so that I can spend next week recording. I’m getting a massage. And I’m listening to my aforesaid station. Tomorrow will be here soon enough.

Living with an advocate for women of sexual assault and domestic abuse, I’ve learned a lot about self-care and how important it is. No one can stay on the front lines indefinitely. We need to be spelled once in a while in order to regroup before heading back out into the fray. Liken it, if you will, to an emergency landing on a jet. We’re instructed to put our masks on first before tending to others. The reason for this should be obvious. In the same way, when fighting any major chaos in life, it’s important to tend to one’s own immediate well being before trying to help others. And that means self-care. Go out for a walk, enjoy the normalness going on around you, the cars still drive by, shop windows are still full of things to look at, and the sun still feels warm when it’s on your face. Stop in somewhere for a coffee, a tea, a beer, a chocolate. Smile at others and enjoy their smiles in return. Then go back to the internet and the marches. You’ll find you’re stronger and calmer, and better able to lend your hand where it’s needed. One or two hours away from the chaos isn’t going to send the world plummeting into the abyss, and the self-care you’ve enjoyed will only make you stronger.

Have a beautiful Sunday and a centered week ahead.

“In dealing with those who are undergoing great suffering, if you feel burnout setting in, if you feel demoralized and exhausted, it is best, for the sake of everyone, to withdraw and restore yourself.” – The Dalai Lama

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If I Only Had a Sign

From L.A. Story, starring Steve Martin

In a meditation on my birthday back in September, I got down to business and told myself/the universe/God/whatever that I wanted a definite, unmistakable sign about which of my two creative expressions—either my books or my album—I’m supposed to concentrate on in 2017. I would be happy working on either one, I stressed, but I needed to know which path I was supposed to take because I didn’t want to waste precious time pouring myself into something that would bear no fruit.

The larger part of me didn’t really expect anything to happen. I’ve been let down my entire life in my ongoing search to have faith in the validity of faith. Beloved childhood mythological entities like Santa Claus had let me down, revered religious figures had let me down, and in more recent years The Secret and all that weebie-wobie, pink cloud, white light crap had let me down.  All the same, in this extremely proactive, confrontational meditation I promised I would accept help from anyone or anything and give credit where it’s due once the project was completed and bearing that fruit.  I wasn’t easy. I demanded an irrefutable sign of some kind. I wouldn’t settle for something flimsy and I wouldn’t read non-existent, pie-in-the-sky, self-serving meaning into otherwise mundane events. My greatest purpose was not to lie to myself.

Actually, until last week I’d forgotten about that meditation and, believe it or not, signs came. Tangible, irrefutable synchronicities that reminded me of my leap of non-faith faith. From out of the blue, unsolicited help has come in from different places where my album is concerned while there has been nothing whatsoever about my books, but when the single, incontestable sign came last night, I knew I’d received an answer.

“Sci-fi has never really been my bag, but
I do believe in a lot of weird things these
days, such as synchronicity. Quantum
physics suggests it’s possible, so why not?”
John Cleese

Actually, it all started when I checked into my ReverbNation account one night just before Christmas. I hadn’t been in there for a few months and at that time I had just 12 fans, all who mostly were musician friends. Man, was I taken aback when I logged in and saw that I had nearly 1000 fans and a number of comments from strangers praising my songs! So I tidied up my profile page, added the two videos that I posted here, and “fanned” back some people. At the time I thought it might be a sign, but it was too flimsy, too serendipitous, and too easily explained as a consequence of the passage of time and of simply having a page there at all. I was encouraged, but I let it pass.

Jim Rolfe

Then, one night last week as I sat up late writing, I received a text from a man whose musicianship I’ve admired for a number of years. Jim Rolfe is the quintessential musicians’ musician. Not only does he write amazing music and can play any instrument he lends his hands to, he’s well-respected around the country, having performed both onstage and in the studio with many other musicians for the past 50 years. He’s seasoned, professional, dedicated, and just a darned nice human being. When he texted me asking for the guitar and vocal tracks of Judge and Jury, I was stunned. You might remember that in 2015 Jim offered to help with this album but, due to my aversion to using people, I never followed up with him. (Wild Bil McCombe first offered to help, which I accepted for one song, but no others. I may have to rethink his offer and invite him in on another song or two.) Jim said he had some ideas and would like to add them to the mix. Now, normally I wouldn’t send anyone the naked tracks of my demos, but this was Jim Rolfe so I sent them without reservation. I’m not an idiot. I  still didn’t think this was enough of a sign to justify closing my book’s manuscript and pull out my music, though, but I knew that if it were a sign another would come along to support and substantiate it. I’ve always believed in the saying,

“Once is a fluke, twice is a coincidence,
thrice is confirmation.”

The confirmation came last night when he sent me the first mix and  I was gobsmacked by what he’d added. Bass, drums, guitar, mandolin—I’m not sure what all is in there, but I loved what I heard. We communicated back and forth about it and, feeling the need to test this supposed threefold sign, I pushed a little harder. Terrified I might overwhelm him (i.e. scare him away) with demands and assumptions (which I’ve never done with anyone before where my music is concerned for fear of coming on too strong), I, in my fashion, jokingly asked if he might want to work on some other songs, perhaps even mix and produce the entire album? Heh-heh, just kidding… I even went so far as to explain that I can’t afford to pay him, really, but I’d give him full credits and a cut of the sales. Heh-heh… I never expected the answer that came back. I mean, he’s a busy man. Not only does he perform,  record and tour, he also teaches guitar and has a life! He replied with, “Let me know what you are thinking as far as another song, etc.” I then audaciously suggested I send him my demos as I complete them and he sent me a thumbs up followed by a smiley face.

So there we are! I’m amped! As of Tuesday I’ll begin not only recording demos of the songs I already have, I’ll be writing new songs. I’ll get back to my books when this project is completed. I still don’t know what I have faith in, but whatever it is, I’m a believer!

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